Tragedy enveloped Sunset Cliffs Saturday night, as one of two women rescued after being swept off rocks and into the foamy rough waters, died in a hospital later that night.
The 23-year-old woman, public identified as Adriana Toro, was the first fatality at the cliffs for the new year.
Witnesses told the media that they observed two women walking on rocks near Santa Cruz Avenue and Bacon Street fully dressed with coats and shoes attempting to get a close look at the waves just after sunset. Suddenly a large wave broke over the cliffs and swept both women into the churning surf.
Janis Ambrosioni was sitting next to the two women on the cliffs when it happened. She told the media:
“It was horrible. We just watched them get washed away and it was nothing you could do.”
“They were like right in front of us, they were like right there and then all of a sudden, they were gone. It’s not like they were way down in an area where they shouldn’t be, we were right on the wall there on the sidewalk.”
A friend of Ambrosioni, who goes by his last name, Struble, was taking photos of the view when he also witnessed the women being swept off the rocks. He said:
“They went out right over there right off the edge.”
Then Struble jumped into the foam and saved one of the women. He said later:
“I ran back and forth and when she got close enough and I went out and I picked her up.”
But when he tried to go back and save Toro, she had been taken out by the current. Lifeguards later called him a hero. He said:
“I tried to go back for the second one, but I couldn’t get there in time because the waves just got too big and she got too far out.”
Shortly after Struble’s rescue, lifeguards and the San Diego Fire Department arrived but it took them about 40 minutes to pull Toro from the water. Lieutenant Rick Romero stated:
“We did see her, but in the amount of the time, the surge was coming in and out she’d appear and then disappear in the foam.”
“[A lifeguard] jumped in, reached down below, felt her and called for other lifeguards to jump in. It took about four lifeguards on scene to bring her in.”
Lifeguards carried Toro up the slippery bluff, performed CPR and then placed her on a stretcher and into an ambulance.
Both Toro and her companion were taken to UCSD Medical Center, as was Struble, but later that night, Toro passed away. The other woman, unidentified, is expected to recover. In addition, two of the lifeguards were taken to a hospital, as a precautionary measure. Lifeguards reported that the ocean was 58 degrees, and waves were up to 15 feet high with two feet of foam.
CBS reported: “It’s just one of those unfortunate things for people who want to come down and watch the waves, that’s awesome, but please stay a good distance,” advised Romero, who said the double rescue was one of the most challenging he had dealt with in his 23-year career.